Argemone Mexicana, L.
NOM. VULG.—Kasubhag̃-āso, Iloc.
USES.—Padre Blanco says that the yellow juice of this plant “is used by the natives (Filipinos) to treat fissures of the corners of the eyes.” The negros of Senegal use the decoction of the root to cure gonorrhoea. The milky juice to which Blanco refers is used in different countries to treat various skin diseases, including the cutaneous manifestations of syphilis and leprosy; to remove warts, and as an eye wash in catarrhal conjunctivitis.
The English physicians of India state that it is dangerous to use the milky juice as an application to the eye, although Dymock claims the contrary.
The flowers are narcotic by virtue of a principle resembling morphine, perhaps identical with that alkaloid.
The seeds yield a fixed oil on expression, which is laxative and relieves the pains of colic, probably by virtue of its narcotic properties. Physicians in India praise this oil highly; not only is it a sure and painless purgative, but it is free from the viscidity and disgusting taste of castor-oil; besides it has the advantage of operating in small doses, 2–4 grams. Its activity is proportionate to its freshness.
Dr. W. O’Shaughnessy does not value this oil highly, but the experience of many distinguished physicians of India has proved the purgative and other properties that have just been mentioned. Possibly the differences of opinion may arise from the fact that oils from different plants were used in the trials.
The seeds yield a fixed oil, yellow, clear, of sweet taste, density 0.919 at 15°; it remains liquid at –5°; is soluble in an equal volume of alcohol at 90°; characterized by an orange-red color on adding nitric acid. From its soap Frolicher has obtained acetic, valerianic, butyric and benzoic acids. Charbonnier claims to have found morphine in its leaves and capsules. Dragendorf has isolated from the seeds an alkaloid which presents the principal characters of morphine. It is, then, probable that morphine is the narcotic principle possessed by this plant, which is not hard to believe when one considers the family to which it belongs.
BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A plant of American origin nowadays acclimated in almost all warm countries. Its stem is green, pubescent, 30–40 centimeters high.
Leaves alternate, thin, sessile, lanceolate, covered with rigid green thorns.
Flowers hermaphrodite, terminal, yellow. Calyx, 3 sepals with conical points.
Corolla, 6 rounded petals. Stamens indefinite, free, hypogynous. Ovary free, triangular. Capsule expanded, oblong, angular, thickly set with prickles: it opens inferiorly by 5 valves.
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